Why is this so important? Because the public will like the bill once they find out what's in it. Republicans know it, and polling bears it out. It's therefore our job to get the word out to our family and friends - and in a way that's easy to understand.
So how do you explain a 2,000+ page bill in under two minutes? Easy.
First, ask the family member or friend if they think insurance companies should be able to revoke people's coverage when they get sick, or deny people coverage because they've got a preexisting condition.
They'll say "no." (If they say "yes," well, you're never going to persuade them).
Then you explain the bill like this:
"Well that's good, because that's the first thing the health care bill does, is ban those outrageous insurance company practices. In fact, there are really just five basic things the health care bill does:
"First, it bans insurance companies from revoking your coverage when you get sick, or denying you coverage because of preexisting conditions.
"Second, with those regulations in place, you've gotta make sure that people don't just wait around till they get sick before buying insurance - otherwise, insurance companies would all go out of business since only sick people would buy insurance. So the bill requires all Americans to buy health insurance - that's the 'individual mandate.'
"Third, if everyone has to buy insurance, you've gotta make sure people can actually afford it. So the bill provides subsidies to help low and middle income people afford insurance.
"Fourth, if the government is paying for people's insurance, you've gotta keep the insurance companies honest and force them to compete. And the bill does this by establishing 'exchanges' where you can shop around for insurance policies online. Insurance companies must post prices and customer satisfaction data to help you compare policies. Basically, the exchanges would be like the Target of health insurance. (See here for more info on the exchanges)
"Last, you've of course gotta pay for all this. And the bill does this with fees on medical device makers and other corporations that benefit from the bill, taxes on the most expensive "Cadillac" insurance plans, and reductions in Medicare fraud and waste. And the Congressional Budget Office actually found that this would reduce the deficit by over $100 billion over the next ten years.
"So really, the bill starts by preventing outrageous insurance company practices, and the rest is just necessary to make that first part work. It's a pretty moderate, common sense bill."
Framed this way, it's almost impossible to reject the bill. If you reject any piece of this, it means you're implicitly supporting insurance companies' ability to rescind coverage and deny on the basis of preexisting conditions, or you're supporting a system that will bankrupt the insurance industry and the federal government.
So again, the summary is:
- Insurance regulation: Bans insurance companies from revoking or denying coverage because you get sick.
- Individual mandate: Requires everyone to buy health insurance in order to prevent people from waiting till they get sick to buy insurance
- Subsidies: Provides subsidies to make sure everyone can afford to buy insurance
- Online exchanges: Establishes online exchanges where you can shop for insurance coverage, in order to promote competition and keep companies honest
- Paying for the bill: Pays for the subsidies with a combination of spending cuts and taxes on companies that benefit from reform
If you're really pressed for time, you can explain it as The Economist does in three sentences:
Under Barack Obama’s plan, which
is bogged down in Congress[just passed], the private-insurance market would expand dramatically—but so would regulation. The proposal would require all Americans to buy cover. To make it affordable, the government would regulate products and prices and offer subsidies for the poor.
For a slightly more detailed explanation, see my post "The simplest explanation of health care reform you will ever read." And if you're really wanting more nitty gritty, go read Ezra Klein's blog.
Questions? Suggestions? Leave them in the comments.
There's no money in selling insurance to sick people: more reasons free markets don't work in health care
The simplest explanation of health care reform you will ever read
Health care reform in three sentences
WSJ inadvertently supports case for health care reform: do you want to trust your health to profit and loss?